The case for VBAC is finally getting stronger.

I’m sitting here watching the
NIH Consensus Development Conference: Vaginal Birth After Cesarean: New Insights
From the NIH Website:

Background
Vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC) is the delivery of a baby through the vagina after a previous cesarean delivery. For most of the 20th century, once a woman had undergone a cesarean (the delivery of a baby through an incision made in the abdominal wall and uterus), many clinicians believed that all of her future pregnancies required delivery by cesarean as well.

However, in 1980 a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Conference panel questioned the necessity of routine repeat cesarean deliveries and outlined situations in which VBAC could be considered. The option for a woman with a previous cesarean delivery to try to labor and deliver vaginally rather than plan a cesarean delivery was thus offered and exercised more often from the 1980s through the early 1990s. Since 1996, however, VBAC rates in the United States have consistently declined, while cesarean delivery rates have been steadily rising.

The exact causes of

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these shifts are not entirely understood. A frequently cited concern about VBAC is the possibility of uterine rupture during labor, because a cesarean delivery

leaves a scar in the wall of the uterus at the incision site, which is weaker than other uterine tissue. Attempted VBAC may also be associated with endometritis (infection of the lining of the uterus), the need for a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or blood transfusion, as well as neurologic injury to the baby.

However,

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repeat cesarean delivery may also carry a risk of bleeding or hysterectomy, uterine infections, and respiratory problems for the newborn. Having multiple cesarean deliveries may also be associated with placental problems in future pregnancies. Other important considerations that may influence decision making include the number of previous cesarean deliveries a woman has experienced, the surgical incision used during previous cesarean delivery, the reason for the previous surgical delivery, her age, how far the pregnancy is along relative to her due date, and the size and position of her baby.

Given the complexity of this issue, a thorough examination of the relative balance of benefits and harms to mother and baby will be of immediate utility to practitioners and pregnant mothers in deciding upon a planned mode of delivery. A number of non-clinical factors are involved in this decision as well, and may be influencing the decline in VBAC rates. Some individual practitioners and hospitals in the U.S. have decreased or eliminated their use of VBAC.

Professional society guidelines may influence utilization rates because some medical centers do

not offer the recommended supporting services for a trial of labor after cesarean (e.g., immediate availability of a surgeon who can perform a cesarean delivery and on-site anesthesiologists).

Information related to complications of an unsuccessful attempt at VBAC, medico-legal concerns, personal preferences of patients and clinicians, and insurance policies and economic considerations may all play a role in changing practice patterns. Improved understanding of the clinical risks and benefits, and how they interact with legal, ethical, and economic forces to shape provider and patient choices about VBAC may have important implications for health services planning.

To advance understanding of these important issues, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Medical Applications of Research of the NIH will convene a Consensus Development Conference from March 8–10, 2010. The conference will address the following key questions:

  • What are the rates and patterns of utilization of trial of labor after prior cesarean, vaginal birth after cesarean, and repeat cesarean delivery in the United States?
  • Among women who attempt a trial of labor after prior cesarean, what is the vaginal delivery rate and the factors that influence it?
  • What are the short- and long-term benefits and harms to the mother of attempting trial of labor after prior cesarean versus elective repeat cesarean delivery, and what factors influence benefits and harms?
  • What are the short- and long-term benefits and harms to the baby of maternal attempt at trial of labor after prior cesarean versus elective repeat cesarean delivery, and what factors influence benefits and harms?
  • What are the nonmedical factors that influence the patterns and utilization of trial of labor after prior cesarean?
  • What are the critical gaps in the evidence for decision-making, and what are the priority investigations needed to address these gaps?

Invited experts will present information pertinent to the posed questions and a systematic literature review prepared under contract with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will be summarized. Conference attendees will have ample time to ask questions and provide comments during open discussion periods. After weighing the scientific evidence, an unbiased, independent panel will prepare and present a consensus statement addressing the key conference questions.

I’m excited about the findings and presenting the consensus statement to ANYONE and EVERYONE associated with birth in North Louisiana. VBAC should be encouraged and supported over repeat C-section for women who are seeking one. Women should be given the opportunity of informed choice when it comes to the way they want to birth their children.
More to come as the conference progresses.

2 thoughts on “The case for VBAC is finally getting stronger.

  1. To me c-sections are being pushed because it’s easier for the doctor and for their schedule. It’s 20 minutes then home for dinner or to make tee time at the local golf course. Then there is the cost of a c-section. The preforming doctor makes more money off a c-section. Yes there are some benefits o having a section but those need to be evaluated by individual circumstance rather than a one size fits all policy that so many practitioners have adopted.

  2. I’m gearing up to get the word out in April for Cesarean Awareness Month (CAM). There is too much research now to prove to unsuspecting mothers that C-sections are not as safe as they have been portrayed to be. Avoiding a primary C-section could mean the difference in having a life-time of complications and chronic conditions. Giving women the opportunity to VBAC also lowers the long-term risks associated with repeat C-sections.

    Women need to find their voice, stand up to the establishment and shout from the rooftops, “WE’RE MAD AS HELL, AND WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANY MORE!” I know I want better for myself, my nieces, my daughter and all child-bearing women.

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